Bakelite Bracelet, ca. 1940

Value (2012) | $300$500

I think it's a piece of Bakelite.

Why do you think it's Bakelite and not another form of plastic?

Texture and weight.

The texture of it. Well, this is really interesting. We see a lot of Bakelites at an auction house, and many of the things that come in have value, as you know, and some have very little value. How much did you pay for this?

Ten dollars.

Was this recently?


Well, the first thing to determine is how rare is this Bakelite bracelet? And the way we do that is by saying, how many colors does it have? Well, this one only has one color. Does it have carving? This one does not have carving. Does it have laminates where the colors are woven together? Obviously, this one does not. That's what makes a bracelet worth a lot in the market today. However, this one still has value because it has great style. But I'm not going to give you the value just yet. What I wanted to do is a lot of people say, "How do you know it's Bakelite as opposed to another kind of plastic?" So I found a very, very simple test. We need some hot water to test this. It's not scientific equipment. It's just a glass with some supposedly very hot water. You take this, and you dip it in. And then you smell it. And what happens when it's Bakelite-- and this is Bakelite; it passed the test-- it has an acrid smell. It just smells terribly, whereas other plastics have no odor. Now, having said that it's not multicolored, it's not carved, it's just pretty, I would value this at $300 to $500. What do you think?

I think I did very well.

I think you did great. And I really like it, and if you find more, what the fashion statement is, more is better. Wear three, four, or five of these.


And I hope you continue collecting Bakelite.

I will.

Appraisal Details

Skinner, Inc.
Boston, MA
Update (2012)
Appraised value (1998)
Louisville, KY (July 11, 1998)

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.